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Rory Best tells of `difficult time' following appearance at rugby rape trial as character witness

Ireland rugby captain Rory Best has told of the "really, really difficult time" he went through when he was called as a character witness at the Belfast rape trial of his team mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Picture by AP/Michel Euler
Marie Louise McConville

IRELAND rugby captain Rory Best has told of the "really, really difficult time" he went through after he was called as a character witness at the Belfast rape trial of his team mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Speaking on BT sports' Rugby Tonight, the 36-year-old sport star said he stood by his decision and hoped his children would be inspired to do the same if ever placed in the same situation.

Best was widely criticised for attending Belfast Crown Court where his team mates, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were standing trial for the rape of a 19-year-old student.

Both men were later cleared of all charges.

 Paddy Jackson (right) and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape in March. Pictures by Hugh Russell

He was photographed at court days before Ireland's Six Nations match against France. There were widespread calls for Best to give up the Irish captaincy while the hashtag #NotMyCaptain trended on Twitter.

Following Ireland's victory over France, Best revealed he attended the trial "because I am on record as a character witness. It was important I got both sides of the story".

"It was a really, really difficult time," he said.

The rugby star said the hardest thing to do was "to try and guide Ulster through it while I was getting so much abuse myself.

"There were a lot of people calling for me to step down, and I think the thing that got me through it was, ultimately, the support that Joe [Schmidt] and the senior players within Ireland gave me."

He added: "I feel that it's a lesson I hope my kids take from it. If you have friends that are in trouble and they need a bit of help and support, and if they are promising you that they have done nothing wrong, even though people may not think it's the right thing to do, I think it is".

Read more: Radical changes to how serious sexual offence cases are handled in wake of rugby rape trial to be revealed

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